Saturday, March 04, 2006


Lovecraft probably selected the octopus as the metaphor for evil - and for Cthulhu - because he loathed fish and considered cephalopods as vermin, just like rats, ants, frogs, or insects. That was typical Edwardian attitude.

He may have just been an unwitting prophet.

Jaron Lanier recently [1] wrote of several new discoveries about cephalopods and their intelligence. If life had gone differently, the octopus, cuttlefish, or squid might rule the planet today. This si exactly the sort of alien life form that Lovecraft might have envisioned - gods from the stars that were so utterly different as to blow our minds to madness.

Lanier: "{a} video was shot by Roger Hanlon ... a researcher at the Marine Biological laboratory in Woods Hole ... he swims up to examine an unremarkable rock covered in swaying algae.

"Suddenly, the rock morphs and reveals itself ... the waving arms of a bright white octopus ... squirts ink at Roger and shoots into the distance.

"octopus vulgaris is ... capable of morphing. ... they offer the best standing example of how truly different intelligent extraterrestrials ... might be from us. {Their} "pixels" in the skin ... are organs called chromatophores. ... as intelligent creatures cephalopods are the most "other" that we know; think of them as the dress rehearsal for the day we encounter intelligent aliens.

" {Another} of Roger's video clips shows a giant cuttlefish pursuing a crab. The cuttlefish is soft bodied, the crab all armor. {Cephalopods are incredible problem-solvers - Chris} As the cuttlefish apporaches, the crab snaps to defense. The cuttlefish responds with a bizarre and ingenious performance {of} psychedelic weird images, luxurious colors, successive waves of undulating lightning bolts and filligree across its skin... the crab is disoriented ... in that moment the cuttlefish strikes between the cracks in the crustacean's armor {and destorys the crab}.

"We can make new noises {with our mouths and vocal chords} and mimic existing ones, spontaneously and instantly. Suppose we {like the cephalopod} had the ability to morph? ... instead of saying, "I'm hungry." we might {"show" how to hunt a crab} ... simulate transparency so your friends could see your empty stomach ... I call this post-symbolic communication."

While Lovecraft lived generations before these advances in understanding, he intuitively knew that alien creatures would be as different from us as we can imagine. He pushed us to understand this by using a "name" like Cthulhu and making it unpronoucable to the human tongue- utterably alien.

In fact, we have many species that communicate non-verbally, vibrationally, via non-visible light, by pheromones, and other unique ways. These are the eldritch gods of alien worlds.

I refuse to eat calimari with the same reason I refuse to eat chimpazee or human brains - it is not right to eat intelligent organisms. So, before you take a piece of that calimari or even (as a recent episode of CSI:NY showed) eat a live octopus, remmeber the Rod Serling Twilight Zone episode To Serve Man, and refrain - before someone eats you.


1 Why Not Morph?, Discover, April 2006, pp. 26,27.

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